Small and Smaller: Extreme Living

How do these homeowners live large in 400, 200 and even less than 100 square feet?
Living in a Small Space Documentary

Living in a Small Space Documentary

When documentary filmmakers Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith set out to make a movie about people living in tiny homes, they became so intrigued with the lifestyle that they built their own 130-square-foot cabin. The film, "TINY: A Story About Living Small ," premiered on March 9, 2013.

When documentary filmmakers Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith set out to make a movie about people living in tiny homes, they became so intrigued with the lifestyle that they built their own 130-square-foot cabin. The film, "TINY: A Story About Living Small ," premiered on March 9, 2013.

By: Susan Kleinman

Who says your home has to be huge to make you happy? These days, many people are choosing to live in tiny spaces and doing so in comfort and style. From miniscule studio apartments in the city to petite cabins way out in the country, scaled-down homes encourage residents to clarify their priorities, edit their possessions and prove that be it ever so humble, there really is no place like home.

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Urban Living

With rents inching toward $100 per square foot, big-city apartments don't come cheap. But rather than move out to the 'burbs where the prices are lower, city lovers choose to stay near the hustle and bustle, even if it means living in apartments as small as 175 square feet.

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Create a Wow Moment

At just 300 square feet, interior designer Ron Marvin's studio apartment is short on space, but not on style. To make the apartment chic and memorable, Marvin used full-scale furniture and plenty of decorative objects. "If you create a major focus or an aha moment," he says, "you forget that you are in a small space. You just realize it feels good, and you are relaxed and comfortable." Design and photography by Ron Marvin

Mix Shapes and Sizes

"Objects and furnishings with varying textures, origins and shapes give interest to the space and keep the eye stimulated," says Callie Jenschke of Scout Designs, who decorated this 350-square-foot studio. Smart design strategy: The more interested the eye is, the more likely it is to ignore the room’s small dimensions. Photography by Patrick Cline for Lonny magazine

Tuck It Away

To create a home office in a 365-square-foot studio, Killy Scheer of Frisson Design hung a curtain from the main room’s ceiling. When the curtain was open, the office felt spacious enough for both work-at-home spouses. When it was closed, Scheer and her husband could forget work and enjoy their living room. Photography by Killy Scheer

Go for Slim and Portable

To meet the challenges of small-space living in a 397-square-foot one-bedroom, photographer Michael Mohr and his wife chose narrow pieces, such as the bench used as a coffee table. Instead of a big entertainment center, Mohr mounted a 27" TV in the closet, hidden most of the time but able to pivot out when they were interested in watching a show. Design and photography by Michael Mohr

Visually Expand the Space

To visually double the space of this tiny pied-a-terre in San Francisco's Chinatown, interior designer Susan Diana Harris mirrored an entire wall. If you’re going to do likewise, be sure the view you're reflecting is attractive enough that you’ll appreciate it in duplicate. Photography by Frankie Norstad

Edit Your Stuff

Professional organizer Laura Cattano was happy to leave the suburban lifestyle behind, even though living in the city means editing her things to fit into 325 square feet. "I prefer living simply," she says. "Less space equals less stuff equals less cleaning, less living for things and more living with what I love and use." To create the illusion of more floor space, openness and light, Cattano chose only furniture with visible legs, and a shallow, open bookcase.

Think About Space Creatively

Professional pastry chef Mark Wynsma lives in a tiny apartment with just 10 inches of kitchen counter space, a few little cabinets and a single drawer. To make up for the lack of storage, he stashes his cooking tools in his freezer, under the bed, in clothes closets and in a trunk in the living room. "The kitchen island is the real savior in making my space functional," says Wynsma. "The key to making a big piece work in a small space is having the bottom of the island open and the marble top white." Photography by Liana Walker

Sustainable Living

With the earth getting more crowded and land more expensive, many Americans are looking for ways to live smaller and more simply. Whether they’re building cabins in the woods or converting old shipping containers into studio apartments, these homeowners are being kind to the planet and to their wallets and find that living without a house full of possessions actually makes their lives feel fuller.

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Discovering a Simpler Approach

"We've all been sold on the idea that what we want is a big house," says Joan Grimm, co-owner/operator of Portland Alternative Designs (PAD). "But more and more people are realizing that they don't want to work 12-hour days to be able to afford a home they never get to enjoy because they're so busy working."

Better Sense of Self and Community

International relief worker Gina Bramucci, who travels for work much of the time, calls this 136-square-foot PAD on Grimm’s land "home" and an arrangement that benefits everyone. "Tiny-home living encourages community," says Grimm. "Instead of every home having a lawnmower, five homes can share one lawnmower."

Private Woodsy Retreat

It's 125 square feet with no real cooking or bathing facilities, but Sandy Foster's cabin in the woods affords her luxuries she wouldn't have in a city apartment, including acres and acres of quiet space all around her.

Chic, White and Serene

Inside, a palette of pure white keeps things simple despite Foster's preference for overstuffed furniture and layered decor.

Container Living

Built to be transported, light, sturdy shipping containers like this one by Leed Cabins make ideal dwellings for people who like to move, if they’re willing to live small. Photography by Daniel Sokol

Sleek and Compact

This design proves that you needn't sacrifice style for the benefits of super-small living, either. The finishes in this unit are as sleek as any you'd find in a luxury apartment. Design by Leed Cabins; photography by Daniel Sokol

Pico Dwelling

When engineer and artist Steve Sauer decided that his one-bedroom apartment was actually more space than he needed, he converted a basement storage unit in a Seattle apartment building into a 182-square-foot "pico dwelling."

Clutter Control

Living in such a small space forces Sauer to carefully and continually edit his belongings. But he doesn't mind it — quite the contrary. "It leads to a more thoughtful life," he says. Photo courtesy of Steve Sauer

Photo By: STEVEN.H.SAUER

Tiny Inspiration

When documentary filmmakers Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith set out to make a movie about people living in tiny homes, they became so intrigued with the lifestyle that they built their own 130-square-foot cabin. The film, TINY: A Story About Living Small, premiered on March 9, 2013.

Closer to Nature

"Our favorite thing about living in a tiny house is the way the outside landscape fills up the interior space," says Mueller. "Our window-to-wall ratio is also really high, and I love the way each window frames a different view. There's something about living in a small space that makes the outside world feel that much closer, even when we're tucked cozily inside." Photo courtesy of TINY: A Story About Living Small

Small Duplex Design

Originally designed as a writer's studio, this 272-square-foot duplex by Gravitas, LC is easily adapted to a permanent dwelling, and the architectural plans are available from the firm's website.

Petite-Sized Getaway

The studio includes a sleeping area, kitchenette, bath and workspace, notes Gravitas' Mark Wagner. The owners of this particular unit sometimes rent it out as a B&B, a good way to test-drive small-space living. Photo courtesy of Gravitas, LC

The Small House Movement

The small house movement started roughly a decade ago, but the economic crisis rapidly accelerated its growth as people began to re-evaluate their lifestyles, craving the simplicity that comes with scaling down. At a fraction of the average house price (some a mere $20,000), these structures eliminate the hassle and potential pitfalls of a mortgage. Plus, they force their occupants to pare down their belongings to the essentials and devise innovative solutions to make the most of every inch.

Petite Appliances

Full-size ranges, double-bowl sinks and side-by-side refrigerators simply won't fit. In their place: mini versions that don't hog space, such as this two-burner stove stacked on top of an oven (with storage tucked behind, to boot).

Modular and Folding Furniture

Furnishings that can be collapsed or tucked away when they're not in use give a small home the flexibility it needs. The drop leaf on this table, which sits snug with the wall so as not to waste floor area, folds up or down depending on the homeowners' needs.

Carefully Chosen Furnishings

Those who inhabit tiny houses don't have the luxury of expansive sofas, clusters of chairs and nests of tables, so what they do have needs to count. Tucked into a bright, sunlit nook, this chair can act as a solo reading retreat, a spot for guests to sit, a perch for doing office work on the computer and much more.

Lofts

Maximizing vertical space in a tiny home is crucial. Enter the loft, which often is used as a sleeping area. Some have built-in beds that fold up during the day to make room for an office or play area, and others hold inflatable mattresses or futons.

Mobility

Tiny houses redefine the term "mobile home." For lifelong nomads, one of the most enticing factors of these structures is their potential for portability. Many are outfitted with wheels that allow them to be pulled behind a vehicle and then parked at the next destination.

Think About Space Creatively

Professional pastry chef Mark Wynsma has a tiny kitchen with just 10 inches of counter space, a few little cabinets and a single drawer. To make up for the lack of storage, he stashes his cooking tools in his freezer, under the bed, in clothes closets and in a trunk in the living room. "The kitchen island is the real savior in making my space functional," says Wynsma. "The key to making a big piece work in a small space is having the bottom of the island open and the marble top white." Photography by Liana Walker

Tuck It Away

To create a home office in her tiny home, Killy Scheer of Frisson Design hung a curtain from the main room's ceiling. When the curtain was open, the office felt spacious enough for both work-at-home spouses. When it was closed, Scheer and her husband could forget work and enjoy their living room. Photography by Killy Scheer

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